Friday, December 23, 2011


Here's my Christmas post from prior years--I still don't know how to say it any better.

"Do we go to your parents' house or mine?" "Where did you put the extra string of Christmas lights?" "Which stuffing recipe are you going to use?" "What can we give him/her?" "Where is my Christmas tie?" "Why doesn't this sweater fit anymore?"

Have these become the sounds of Christmas at your house? I hope not. As the blessed day sneaks up on us, I've wondered what to say to those of you who read my random jottings from time to time. What can I say that's new and inspirational? Finally, it dawned on me...I don't have to find something new. Better to stick with something written about 2700 years ago by the prophet, Isaiah. The words bring as much hope now as they did then. May it be ever so.

"The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned....For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."

May you have God's peace in your heart, not just as you celebrate Christ's birthday, but every day in the year to come. Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Holiday Hiatus

My son first acquainted me with this phrase from Stephen Covey: "sharpen the saw." By that he means take time to relax and refresh. The holidays are upon us, and I'll be doing just that for the next two weeks.  Unless there is some terribly important development I just have to share with you all, I won't be posting for a bit. I plan to resume my blog posts the first week in January. In the meantime, have a wonderful--and meaningful--Christmas. And hug your family.

(Oh, and if you're looking for a last-minute gift for that hard-to-buy-for person, you might consider a book. And if it's one of mine, I'd be honored.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Without Them

I've posted this in the past, but  each year there are new additions to the ranks of those observing the holiday for the first time without a loved one, so I decided to share it once more.

Many of you know that I started writing after the death of my first wife. I used segments from the journaling I did to craft a book with chapters dealing with the situations I faced in the months afterward. I pulled no punches, detailing my failures as well as the victories I eventually won. That book, The Tender Scar: Life After The Death Of A Spouse, is still in print and continues to help thousands of grieving people each year.

Because I know how difficult the holidays can be after the death of a loved one, I decided to post this article which I wrote for a small local paper several years ago. I hope it helps those of you who are facing this situation. If you know of others who need it, please forward it to them.


    After the death of a loved one, every holiday that follows carries its own load of renewed grief, but there’s little doubt that Christmas—especially that first Christmas without him or her—is the loneliest time of the year.

    After the death of my wife, Cynthia, I was determined to keep things as “normal” as possible for that first Christmas. Since this was an impossible goal, the stress and depression I felt were simply multiplied by my efforts. My initial attempt to prepare the Christmas meal for my family was a disaster, yet I found myself terribly saddened by the sight of my daughter and daughters-in-law in the kitchen doing what Cynthia used to do. Putting the angel on the top of the tree, a job that had always been hers, brought more tears. It just wasn’t right—and it wasn’t ever going to be again.

    Looking back now, I know that the sooner the grieving family can establish a “new normal,” the better things will be. Change the menu of the traditional meal. Get together at a different home. Introduce variety. Don’t strive for the impossible task of recreating Christmases past, but instead take comfort in the eternal meaning of the season.

    The first Christmas will involve tears, but that’s an important part of recovery. Don’t avoid mentioning the loved one you’ve lost. Instead, talk about them freely. Share the good memories. And if you find yourself laughing, consider those smiles a cherished legacy of the person whom you miss so very much.

    For most of us, grieving turns our focus inward. We grieve for ourselves, for what might have been, for what we once had that has been taken from us. The Christmas season offers an opportunity to direct our efforts outward. During this season for giving, do something for others. Make a memorial gift in memory of your loved one to your local Food Bank, the Salvation Army, or your favorite charity. Involve yourself in a project through your church. Take a name from an Angel Tree at one of the malls and shop for a child whose smile you may not see but which will warm your heart nevertheless.

    When you’re grieving, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by Christmas, especially the modern version. The echoes of angel voices are drowned out by music from iPods. The story of Jesus’ birth gives way to reruns of “Frosty, The Snowman.” Gift cards from Best Buy and WalMart replace the offerings of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. If you find the season getting you down, the burden of your loss too great to bear, read once more the Christmas story in Luke, chapter 2. Even when you celebrate it alone, this is the true meaning of Christmas.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Pam Meyers Tells Us It’s Always Thyme for Love

 While I'm guest-blogging today at Cathy West's Blog About Books, I’ve asked author Pam Meyers to share some thoughts with us on this space. I think you’ll enjoy getting to know Pam and the story behind her debut novel, Thyme For Love. Before we hear from Pam, here's a little about the novel:

When April Love signs on to be an in-house chef at an old lakeshore mansion in Canoga Lake, Wisconsin, she comes face to face with her long-lost love, the drop-dead gorgeous Marc Thorne. It doesn't take long for their old magnetism to recharge, but how can she trust the guy who left her nearly at the altar eight years earlier? Her gut tells her something happened to Marc in between--something he's reluctant to reveal. When April's boss is murdered, Marc is accused of the crime. Unless April can find out who really killed Ramón Galvez, her chances for love will end up at the county jail. 

My writing journey began some years back when I was enrolled at Trinity International University here in Illinois in an accelerated adult bachelor’s program. One creative writing class, and I became hooked on fiction. Little did I realize how long a journey it would be before I signed my first contract.

By the time I began writing Thyme for Love, I’d already written a women’s fiction novel, a romance, and a novella, all of which never made it to publication. I’d always wanted to write a story set in my hometown of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, and thought a story that married romance and mystery would be fun to write. The many 20th Century mansions that dot Geneva Lake’s shoreline, always intrigued me, and I toyed with the idea of setting the story in one of those homes. But I eventually decided to gain more freedom with some of the plot details and its characters, it would be better to create a fictional village and lake just to the east of Lake Geneva. I loved that my characters could go into town for a meal at an actual restaurant located there or hang by the lake. I also gave them backgrounds that involve working on Geneva Lake as many college students do during the summer months.

I hope my readers have as much fun reading my story as I did writing it.

Thanks, Pam. We appreciate your sharing, and look forward to reading Thyme for Love. I understand it’s available at all the major online and brick-and-mortar booksellers.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Books As Gifts

It's possible that some of you will already have finished your Christmas shopping. But others, myself included, are just getting started. As an author, I find myself wondering how many people will be giving books as gifts this year. And, if so, whether they'll be hard copy or e-books.

If someone on your gift list is joining the Kindle and Nook craze, this would be a great time to buy an e-book for them. If they (or you) are more traditional, a book they can hold in their hand is always a nice touch.And if you're a reader, you might want to drop a hint or two about which books are on your own wish list.

If you want to personalize your gift, check out the site, Signed By The Author. Hundreds of books are available there, all available to be signed and personalized by the authors. For the Kindle owner, Kindlegraph gives you a way to get a  page with the author's signature and sentiments to be added to a book on Kindle. (I've already blogged about this recently).

Already own some of my books and want them autographed, either for yourself or as a gift? No problem. I'll send you signed bookplates to put into the books. Just email me at: Dr R L Mabry at yahoo dot com (put address into proper format and put the name of one of my books in the subject line to avoid my spam filter). Tell me 1) how many you need, 2) whether you want them personalized ("to XX"), and your snail mail address. I'll do the rest. I'll even add a gummed "Signed by the Author" sticker for the cover.

And while you're making out your shopping list, don't forget to give to the less fortunate this Christmas. Pick the charitable organization or effort of your choice--there are lots of worthy ones--but share with others. It's something we should do all year long, but especially at this season of the year.

Merry Christmas, and to echo Dickens' words, "God bless us, every one!"

Friday, December 02, 2011

Posting Today at Rachelle Gardner's Blog

For today, I'd prepared a post about books for Christmas, including a few words about signed books, but you'll have to wait until next week to read those. Instead, I'm guest-posting today over at the blog of my agent, Rachelle Gardner, talking about "If I can touch just one reader.." I hope you'll drop by, see what I have to say, and leave a comment.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

"How Do You Sign An E-Book?"

The question of whether e-books are here to stay seems to have been settled. Print books continue to sell, but e-book sales are on an upward trend, and I suspect that this Christmas they'll rise even more quickly. From an author's standpoint, I don't suppose it really matters, so long as books sell. (This doesn't take into account authors who have decided to bypass the traditional publishing process and self-publish their own e-books. That's a subject for another day--and maybe by another person).

I purchased my own e-reader (a Kindle) after long deliberation, mainly because it makes it very easy to receive and read galleys of books by other authors, in view of an endorsement. And I have to admit, I enjoy some aspects of the experience. Of course, there are still times I reach for a bookmark when I close my Kindle, but I'm learning.

I've sometimes joked, "Well, e-books are okay, but how do you autograph them?" Now that problem has been solved, at least for Kindle books. It's the Kindlegraph. Simple sign up for this free service, and when you download a book to your Kindle you can ask the author to personalize it for you. I'm not sure exactly how they make it work, but then again, I'm not sure why the light goes on when I flip the switch. So long as it works, I'm satisfied.

I'm unaware of similar services for the Nook or other e-readers. If they exist, the information hasn't reached me. But if you have one or more of my books on Kindle, I'd be pleased to sign them for you. Here's the link to my books at Kindlegraph.

If you've used Kindlegraph, what do you think of it? And if not, why not?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Thoughts

Thanksgiving means different things to different people. To some people, it means turkey, dressing, and Mom's sweet potato casserole. For others it's a day spent in front of the TV set watching football. To many, it's a day to be with family.

Unfortunately, for some it's another day of wondering where they'll sleep, what they'll eat, how they'll stay warm and dry. We have been blessed individually and as a nation. Give thanks today, then tomorrow do something for someone less fortunate. Pay it forward. You'll be glad you did.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Fundraiser for Sandi Rog

I'm donating signed copies of all four of my novels as part of the current fund-raiser for author Sandi Rog. Sandi's fighting cancer, and she and her family need our support. This isn't tax-deductible, it's just an opportunity to help someone who's having a tough time. Please buy one less coffee at Starbucks next week and pledge that amount of money to this effort. Thanks.

And thanks to Alison Strobel Morrow for her efforts in this endeavor.

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Writer Reads

As I recover from my back surgery (Doing well--thanks for asking), I've had to take frequent breaks from sitting at the computer. These times, spent lying with ice on my back, have resulted in my re-visiting some of the books I've enjoyed reading in the past.

When we moved three years ago, I got rid of a lot of books, keeping only the ones I thought I'd enjoy reading again. Now I've had the opportunity to do just that, and it's been something of a mixed blessing for me.

I still recall the editor who told me to read Peace Like A River. That was what good Christian fiction was like. I read it, and although I've forgotten a number of the plot points, I still recall my reaction when I finished it: I'll never be able to write this well.

I haven't reached the level of Leif Enger, and realize I never will. I also haven't learned to write like John Grisham, Robert B. Parker, Robert Crais, Lawrence Block, Michael Connolly, James Scott Bell or Michael Palmer. But I enjoy reading their work, and have to admit that from each one of them I learn a little something about catching the reader's attention, drawing them into the plot, making them turn the pages. Alton Gansky told me years ago that, once you start writing, you'll never read the same way again. I've found that true, but it hasn't taken away from my enjoyment.

Writers, do you think you read differently than you did before you dived into the profession? And readers, what traits of your favorite writers do you admire?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Free E-Book Downloads

I didn't buy an e-reader when they first became available. I made all the usual excuses: too expensive, don't need it, I like printed books. But eventually I bought a Kindle, and have to admit that I like it. It's especially helpful if I need to read another author's galley (pre-print copy of a forthcoming novel) to give an endorsement. Besides, I can often download a book and enjoy it at no cost, thanks to special offers from the publishers.

The idea behind free book downloads, I'm told, is that someone might read your book and then buy others you've written. They may even talk to family and friends about it. So the bread cast upon the waters will bring returns. Seeing my books available free still causes a knot in my stomach as I picture royalties flying out the window, but I have to admit that all this seems to be working.

One negative, which I've mentioned before, is that some people download free books indiscriminately without looking at their content, and then blast my book and me because it's Christian fiction. I've come to expect some one- and two-star reviews as a result of this, but hope that good reviews from people who like the book will sort of cancel these out.

My second novel of medical suspense, Lethal Remedy, is supposed to be available as a free e-book download tomorrow from,, and I don't have the links as I write this, but if you open any of those sites and search for Lethal Remedy, it should show up as free. This book was a finalist for the American Christian Fiction Writers prestigious Carol Award, and although all authors think each book they write is better than the last, I think this one is pretty good. If you agree, tell your friends. After all, that's the idea behind this.

Do you own an e-reader? If so, do you take advantage of free downloads? Do you often discover an author whose work you like enough that you buy other books by him/her? Let me know.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veterans Day, 2011

For hundreds of years, brave men and women have put themselves in harm's way--at home and abroad-- to defend our country and protect our liberty. Please pause for a moment and give thanks for the men and women who have served America in her armed forces. I'm proud to be among their number. May those efforts never be forgotten, nor be in vain, and may God bless America.

Richard L. Mabry, Capt, USAF, MC
1605th USAF Hospital, Lajes Field, Azores, 1962-1964

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

"Why Do You Write Medical Suspense?"

When I started writing fiction, I was advised to “write what you know,” so I crafted a novel about a doctor who failed as a professional baseball player before going to medical school (pretty much my story except that it was semi-pro baseball while I was in college). I thought it was interesting, because it had lots of inside information about both the sport and the profession. It had a male protagonist, a strong female lead, and a charming cast of characters. Editors liked it, but their response was always the same: “It won’t sell.”
Fast forward through two more unsuccessful novels. That’s when I was urged to try my hand at writing a cozy mystery. In a cozy mystery, the protagonist is usually female and often an older one. There’s one central story arc, centering on a mystery (generally a crime) that must be solved. These books are typically short, and an “easy read.” I tried writing a cozy mystery. I failed. But, in so doing, I learned some things. (Of course, I also quit writing—but that’s another story for another time).
When I got back to writing again, I revisited the “write what you know” philosophy, but by this time I was a bit wiser about the industry. I knew medicine, but realized it was best to just sprinkle it throughout the manuscript, not make it the focus of the writing. I’d been reading suspense novels for years and knew what I liked about them, so I decided to incorporate that element into my work. And I’d become convinced that there should be a love interest in my novels, in order to appeal to the women who make up 85% of the readership of Christian fiction (so I’d been told). Thus, my next novel was “medical romantic suspense.”
By now I’d also learned more about the craft. The cozy mystery failed experiment taught me about keeping one central theme, without taking too many side trips. And I wrote without trying to conform to a specific genre, simply incorporating the elements that seemed to fall naturally into my stories.
The resulting novel, originally titled Run Away Home, was no overnight success, but it wasn’t long before my agent, Rachelle Gardner, called me with some good news. The book had sold to Abingdon Press, where it was given the title Code Blue. The launch date was April 1, and it was followed at six-month intervals by three other novels in the Prescription For Trouble series: Medical Error, Diagnosis Death, and my latest, Lethal Remedy.
That's my journey. For writers still looking to "find their voice," my advice is to first learn the craft (obviously), but after that, write what you know and/or love, do the best job possible, and worry about assigning a genre afterward. Write on.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Can You Remember?

I recently underwent surgery, and my last clear memory was as I was being wheeled out of the pre-op holding area. The anesthesiologist had just injected something into my IV, and I said, "You just gave me some 'don't care' medicine didn't you?" She nodded, the double doors opened, and that's all I knew until I woke up in the recovery room. When I was on the other end of the scalpel, doing surgery (which I did for 36 years), I often told the anesthesiologist, "What I want the patient to experience is a lack of pain coupled with retrograde amnesia." In other words, I didn't want their time in the OR getting prepared for surgery to be a traumatic experience that would be the basis for bad memories.

Sometimes I think that a few established writers have had a dose of 'don't care' medicine, giving them retrograde amnesia for the time before they were published, the time when they received rejection after rejection, the time when it seemed as though they'd never make in their chosen field. Fortunately, this is rare. Most of the established writers I encounter work hard to help those still struggling to make their mark. But every once in a while, I'll find one who seems to have forgotten their own times of struggling.

Is there someone you know who's struggling to climb the same hill you have? Don't have retrograde amnesia about how hard it is. Reach out and give them a hand. You won't regret it.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

The Simple Things

My recent back surgery has been an eye-opener. I was told that the recuperation was "simple" and "relatively short." What I didn't realize was how long two weeks can be when I had to avoid "BLT." No, not the sandwich, although it might have been difficult not to lust after one during that time. BLT refers to bending, lifting, and twisting.

At first glance, that might seem simple. But think how many times a day we do something that involves one of those activities. Take tying a shoelace. I'm a relaxed kind of guy. After thirty-six years practicing medicine, wearing a dress shirt and tie to the office every day (except when I changed into surgical scrubs), I easily gravitated during retirement into golf shirts, jeans, and sneakers. But my New Balance shoes require tying shoelaces. So for the past few days I've been wearing loafers. Now I love those shoes, but I'll be ready to put them back in the closet in exchange for sneakers again.

I was told I couldn't drive for two weeks. Before I could open my mouth, the doctor reminded me that a certain amount of twisting went along with that activity--looking behind me, responding to a horn or a screech of tires, actions I performed without thought that might undo some of the good he'd accomplished with the surgery.

Kay has been great. She gently reminds me to take care of myself, and serves as my chauffeur without grumbling. But we're both ready for me to resume some of my normal activities. My next appointment is tomorrow, and I'm looking forward to being turned loose to do some of the things I've missed. I think the first thing I'm going to do when we get home is kick off these loafers and dig out my New Balance shoes. I've missed you, old friends.

Have you ever been denied something you took for granted? Chime in. Misery loves company.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Books As An Escape

Kay and I love to watch reruns of the sitcom, "Frasier." I was recently reminded of the episode in which Frasier and Niles are discussing the question of what they'd choose if stranded on a desert island: one meal, one bottle of wine, one aria. Incidentally, I'd probably ask for the Mexican plate lunch from El Fenix, iced tea, and something from Josh Grobin. Nevertheless, the question was recently brought into focus in my own life.

If you attended the recent conference of the American Christian Fiction Writers, you probably noticed me walking haltingly with a grimace on my face. As it turns out, I had a ruptured disc in my back. There was no response to aggressive medical treatment, so on October 21, I underwent surgery. It appears that the surgery was successful, and I'm healing nicely, but during the recuperation period I'm spending a lot of time lying down. So what have I been doing? Reading, of course.

During my first wife's time in the ICU after her fatal stroke, I read through all of Robert B. Parker's books. I love his writing style, and for a few minutes I was able to leave behind the problems surrounding me. This time I've found that many of the novels from authors whose work I enjoyed the first time around still hold my attention on second and third readings.

This brings me to the point of this blog. If you were to be given unlimited time to read while recuperating from surgery, recovering from an illness, whatever--what books would you choose? And let's assume that The Bible would be one. Go beyond that and tell me the books you'd choose for comfort, relaxation, and to pass the time.

I look forward to reading your responses.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Interview with Author and "Blog Mama" Therese Walsh

I've become cyber-friends with Therese Walsh, and today I'd like you to meet her and hear about two blogs that are "must-reads" for writers and for readers.

RM: You and Kathleen Bolton are the “blog-mamas” for the very successful site, Writer Unboxed. Originally, as I understand it, WU was launched when neither of you was published, to provide a place for discussing what made books and movies work. Now you’re both published authors. Has this resulted in a change for WU?

TW: The biggest change came after realizing we no longer had a voice of the unpublished writer on WU. That voice is important, because it provides inspiration and a window into "aha" moments as they’re happening to folks still climbing the publishing mountain. So we ran a search for the new voice of the unpublished writer, someone who’d come aboard as a once-monthly contributor. After asking for and reading nearly two hundred applications and sample posts, we narrowed the field to nine candidates we really loved, then chose one: the incomparable Jan O’Hara. We asked the others if they’d come aboard as Honorary Contributors and blog three times annually with us, and happily they all agreed.

RM: Now you’re launching a new site, Reader Unboxed. What’s that about?

TW: Reader Unboxed has been on our collective backburner for a couple of years. It seemed like there was something there—a way to extend the WU brand, as it were, to possibly connect with readers. It felt like a missing link.

On the backburner it sat until we met with some of our fellow WU’ers this summer for breakfast in New York City. Donald Maass was there with Kath and me, along with Barbara O’Neal, Jael McHenry, Jan O’Hara, and Juliet Marillier. There was a sort of collective sigh when we mentioned Reader Unboxed, and then a surge of excited ideas. I think that fueled us to take the next, real steps forward.

The idea became less nebulous over the following months: Reader Unboxed would be a unique review site structured to encourage interactivity between readers and reviewers, and eventually readers and authors. We invited Larramie, a champion for authors on her site, The Divining Wand, to join us, and she agreed. Larramie became instrumental in building the site with reviewers, and in helping us to brainstorm ideas for Reader Unboxed. What might readers love? How about Reader Roulette—a game of sorts whereby a reader would receive a free book in exchange for their review posted on Reader Unboxed? Or a feature called Undiscovered Treasures, where readers would submit reviews for books that have been on the shelves for a long time but never received the attention they deserved? How about Waiting in the Wings, a column featuring books that have yet to be released but sound fantastic? These are a few of the features we’ve evolved, but our intention is to expand upon them as we settle in and receive reader feedback.

Kath took on the role as head administrator at RU. She established our domain, settled on a designer for our site (Sumy Designs) and directed that work. She helped Larramie coordinate things with our eight reviewers. She also established the soon-to-be-hopping RU Twitter account.

I helped with design and organizational aspects, too, and suggested we lean on our hook: the idea of being “unboxed.” We’ve defined “unboxed” fiction as fiction that feels fresh (re: topic or structure or characterizations or voice…). RU’ers will review each book traditionally but also hone in on a work’s freshness and celebrate that with an “unboxed” rating. It’s our hope that readers who crave books that haven’t been done-to-death check with us first.

RM:  Your debut novel, The Last Will of Moira Leahy, has been out for over a year. What have you learned about being a published author that surprised you?

TW: Oh, boy, I’ve had plenty of surprises—happy and maddening! One positive surprise was learning authors often experience the same sorts of setbacks, neuroses (!), and challenges, even if they don’t want to broadcast these things over a blog or social media. Very often they’re willing to talk privately, though, to share experiences—both happy and maddening—and offer support if they can. You want to know if it’s common to switch editors, for your house to close, to be promised XYZ promotions and end up with :-o? Just ask a fellow author. Writing is a lonely occupation. It’s important to be with your people. It’s important to realize that if you’re going through something stressful you’re probably not the first to have to cope with that issue. Reach out, gain a support group. It can save your sanity.

RM: What’s next from the pen of Therese Walsh?

TW: A book about two sisters taking what seems a foolish journey to “find the end of their dead mother’s story,” when it fact it’s the most important of all journeys, as they try to come to grips with their mother’s probable suicide and ultimately the meaning of life. (I like to keep it light, ha!)
I’ve had a love-hate relationship with this story, in part because of that dreaded “second-book syndrome” everyone hears about. But things are clicking now, and my confidence is restored daily. That’s the gift of revision, I think.

RM: And, as the warden might say, any last words?

TW: Come on over to check out Reader Unboxed when you can. Help us spread the word if you like what you see. And of course, write on!

Thanks, Therese. I can say from my own experience that both these sites are entertaining and informative, and I hope my readers will check them out.

Friday, October 21, 2011

What's Next?

There's a lot of buzz on the Internet recently about blog fatigue. Some fairly prolific bloggers have decided to pack it in, or at least take a hiatus. Others have cut back their schedule.

Long ago, I decided that about two blogs a week was my limit, and I've managed to keep that up for quite a while, but it does get wearing after a while. Which leads me to my question. Since you're a reader of this blog (or you at least are reading this particular post), what would you like to see? Inside information about the writing life? Gossip from the publishing world. Guest posts from other authors? Book giveaways? More about the Texas Rangers (the baseball team, not the law enforcement group). I would include the Dallas Cowboys, but I'm not into tragedy right now.

Let me know what you think? I'm waiting, my fingers poised over the keyboard.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Visiting Today--Come On Over

I'm visiting today at the Seriously Write blog. Come on over and see what I have to say about "The Call" vs. "The Call."

Friday, October 14, 2011

Just Over The Next Hill

When our children were smaller, we had a lake house about an hour’s drive from Dallas. In the time-honored tradition of children everywhere, they began asking “How much longer?” and “Are we there yet?” shortly after we left home. I knew the landmarks along the road well enough that I was able predict our arrival before we crested the last hill. Matter of fact, we made a game of it. I’d borrow a line from their favorite Muppet, The Amazing Mumford, and say, “Okay, it’s time. Say it.” And they’d repeat the magic words: “A la peanut butter sandwiches. Make Runaway Bay appear.” And sure enough, it did.
Don’t we writers wish we knew what was over the next hill? We’d like to be able to say, “A la peanut butter sandwiches. Make an agent offer representation.” Or “A la peanut butter sandwiches. Make an editor offer a contract.” But it doesn’t work that way. We don’t know the landmarks of this journey, so we have to wait, crest the next hill, and if nothing positive happens, press on to the next one.
Of course, even if there is a contract over the next hill, that isn’t the end of the journey. There are the edits—macro edits, line edits, galley proofs. There’s cover art, a possible title change, all sorts of things. And along the way, we’re expected to help market our work, starting well before the date of publication.
I've had four novels of medical suspense published, and I've recently signed with Thomas Nelson Company for the publication of three more, so I sort of have an idea what's over the next hill. But even if I were to keep cresting hills and nothing appears, I don’t believe I'd stop writing. Because writers don’t stay on this road just hoping to see a goal fulfilled. We stay on the road because writing is what we do—for many of us it’s what we feel we’ve been called to do. So we keep doing it, no matter what appears over the next hill.
What are you hoping to see over your next hill?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

What Next?

(This post originally appeared on Writer Unboxed, the excellent website for writers hosted by Therese Walsh and Kathleen Bolton).

            The other day I was in a bookstore and saw my novels on display. You might be surprised to know that, rather than just exhilaration, the experience generated mixed emotions. Sure, I’m thrilled that I’ve reached this point in my writing journey. I’ve made it to a place lots of my colleagues would love to occupy. But I’m also wondering, “Now, what?”
The publication of my first novel led to contracts for three more books with the same publisher. Now the last contract has been fulfilled. If I were an actor, I’d be “between engagements.” As an author, I’m “between contracts.” Where do I go from here? How do I (and my agent) go about moving on? Will the publisher that gave me my start want more of my books? Would there be interest from another publishing house in my next series? And sometimes I ask myself the toughest question of all: will anyone want my work? I’ve made it to this point, but will that be as far as I go?
You’re probably shaking your head, saying, “You’ve got it made. A published author has a leg up on all the rest of us.” At one time I thought that was true. Like most of you, I’d heard that published authors had some advantages. You don’t need a completed manuscript—the publishers know you can do it. You’re a known quantity. You have name recognition. You understand the industry. But, as Gershwin so eloquently put it, “It ain’t necessarily so.”
Let’s start with the manuscript. Your published works demonstrate your ability to put the words together. They show that you can finish a book. But you still must produce a sample of your next book. Along with that, an editor wants to know the story arc you have planned. In other words, they want a synopsis, and everyone—even a published author—has to write one. My best description of a synopsis is a single-spaced, three- to five-page outline of plot that writers hate to write and editors may not read. But try putting together a proposal that doesn’t contain a synopsis, and see how far you get.
How about being a known quantity as a published author? That’s true, but whether that quantity is good or bad depends on our sales figures. A few authors are an instant success, but most of us build a readership over time, and if the sales numbers for the first book are low, there may not be an opportunity for the second or third book to serve as stepping-stones to increasing readership. Good sales numbers are a definite plus, but bad sales numbers are harder to overcome than a garlic sandwich before a first date.
As for name recognition, that hardly ever comes from one published book. There are other factors involved, and they all require work on the author’s part. We must have a presence on the Internet and social media. Nowadays, editors want to know about the traffic our website and blog generate. They are interested in how many Facebook followers we have. We must have a “platform,” and publication doesn’t guarantee one.
What about knowing the industry? True, the experience of being published shows us a lot about the publishing industry. But sometimes what we learn makes us even more doubtful that anyone will give us another contract. The industry is constantly changing, no one really knows what effect ebooks will have, self-publication continues to sing its siren song. Yes, a published author knows the industry, but sometimes it’s a matter of “the more you know, the more unsure you are.”
Despite my misgivings and doubts, I’m continuing to write my next novel, my agent is pitching it to various editors, and we’ll hope for the best. If we’re successful, in a few years maybe I’ll again stand in a bookstore, look at my books, and wonder, “Now what?” 
Update: As many of you may already know, I just signed with Thomas Nelson Company for three more novels of medical suspense, so the wondering and worrying is over for a bit--except for wondering if I can meet my deadlines and worrying that the quality of the work won't be adequate. But that's a post for another day.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Posting At The ACFW Blog Today

I'm doing a guest post at the blog of the American Christian Fiction Writers today. I hope you'll drop by and read what I mean when I talk about "Down In The Valley, Valley So Low..."

Hurry back next week for my regular post. Thanks.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Playing "The Flash" Today

This is a busy time for me. Over the weekend I was featured at The Suspense Zone and had a guest post at Writer Unboxed.

Today I'm being interviewed on the blog of Margaret Daley, fellow author and President of the American Christian Fiction Writers. This week I have several guest posts (and an opportunity for you to win some books) at Medical Edge, the blog of writer Jordyn Redwood. I hope you'll drop by all these places and leave a comment.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Post-Conference Thoughts

A week ago, the American Christian Fiction Writers held its tenth annual conference, "under the arch" in St. Louis. For those of you who saw me there and wondered why I was less animated than usual, I have to apologize--I battled back and hip pain the entire time, and in retrospect probably should have cancelled, but I wanted to be there. And I'm glad I came.

On a personal level, it was an honor to meet with other members of the ACFW Operating and Advisory Boards to conduct the business of the organization (and there's a lot!) I got to meet my new publishing family, the folks from Thomas Nelson. At the Gala on Saturday evening, it was my privilege to present the Agent of the Year award to my own agent, Rachelle Gardner. And even though my novel, Medical Error, didn't win a Carol Award, the fact that it was a finalist was exciting.

Thanks to the folks at Abingdon and the conference bookstore for making sure that copies of my latest novel, Lethal Remedy, were available. What a thrill to introduce it at this year's ACFW, and to sign copies of all my books for attendees.

I asked a few attendees to give me their reflections on the conference. Next year we'll be in Dallas. I hope to see you there.

Jeff Gerke, Publisher:
"ACFW is always my favorite Christian writers conference every year. The size of it, the high quality of the writing I see there, and the chance to see old friends and meet new ones make it the high point of my conference year. Plus this year I got to sword fight under the Arch and wear a knight's costume to the Carol Awards--where we were blessed to receive an award in our category--so it made this year's conference even more special."

Anne Mateer, Author:
“I always love conference time, and this year proved no different. It was a bit overwhelming, though, with just the number of attendees. I came home having missed connections with some of my favorite people! But in spite of that, God met me there, as usual. I can truly say that the people I did meet up with--friends old and new--were truly God-ordained meetings. And three specific classes, The Moral Premise by Stan Williams, Sometimes It's Better to Tell than Show by Erin Healy and How to Write an Award-winning novel by Deb Raney and Tammy Alexander sent me home inspired to be a better writer. I love getting those few days a year where I can leave behind the other hats I wear and just be a writer.”

Becky Monds, Editor:
"What a fun conference! I so enjoyed meeting some of our new authors and seeing old friends. And, of course, the enthusiasm for using story to spread the Gospel cannot be equaled."

Les Stobbe, Literary Agent:
"Congratulations on a really well orchestrated ACFW event! The volunteers were first class, the food outstanding, and the Awards Banquet beautifully choreographed. I was impressed by the quality of proposals I saw during the appointment times. And it is always fun to meet my ACFW conference friends."

Katie Ganshert, Author:
"I left feeling completely invigorated and completely exhausted, if that's possible. God spoke to me in big ways through the speakers and workshop presenters. I was able to meet and reconnect with a plethora of amazingly talented writers. I got to whoop it up when my agent, Rachelle Gardner, won Agent of the Year at the award's banquet. And I got to see a sneak peek of my debut novel's cover during dinner with my editor and other Waterbrook Multnomah authors."

Steve Laube, Literary Agent:
"It is always invigorating to be with so many highly creative people and to be a part of the discovery and development of tomorrow’s bestselling authors. I had over 30 one-on-one appointments and editor meetings, taught three classes, and had dozens of “hallway” meetings of all kinds. …
In my opinion, if you are a novelist writing for the Christian market, you owe it to yourself to consider attending next year’s event, which will be held in Dallas. Check the ACFW website for more information."

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

When I was practicing medicine, I got used to being asked the occasional question outside the office. "What do you recommend for allergy?" "Take a look at this and tell me what you think." After I retired, I was prepared for those questions to tail off, but then God intervened in my life--there's no other way to put it--and I started writing. That didn't create much of a stir in my circle of friends and acquaintances, but once I had a couple of novels published, the questions started.

Now I'm asked "How did you get your agent?" and "How much money do you make from this?" The answers, by the way, are "Dumb luck" and "Not nearly enough." But the question I'm asked most often is "Where do you get your ideas?"

In one of my first classes at the writer's conference where God re-directed my life, author and teacher Alton Gansky told us he would never run out of ideas. As I recall, he had a file box almost full of 3x5 cards with ideas on them. His constant question as he goes through life is "What if...?" For instance, what if there were a secret underground military installation, and it suddenly disappeared? That turned into the hook for a story.

As for me, I'm not as curious as Al Gansky, but I do keep my eyes out for possible scenarios that could be turned into books. My Carol-Award nominee book, Medical Error, came about as I read about two situations: identity theft and a patient almost dying from receiving the wrong medication. I wondered what would happen if the two scenarios were combined. I fiddled around with it, and Medical Error was born.

Each of my novels is rooted in something I've either experienced, read about, or heard about. But I can't begin to explain the exact way I turn those into a novel. It's an interesting question, and maybe some of the authors who read this blog will chime in. In the meantime, I just had an idea for a book and need to jot down a note before I forget it.

Friday, September 23, 2011

How Do Writers Learn?

This week, a number of writers, both published and aspiring, will be attending the annual conference of the American Christian Fiction Writers. Those who are at the meeting will hear talks, participate in workshops, meet with editors and agents, and network among other authors. Will those unable to attend, for whatever reason, simply stagnate in their writing ability? Not at all.

Writers learn and grow in many ways. A man who has mentored and encouraged me, James Scott Bell, maintains that writers are made, not born, and his story (and, to a certain extent, mine) prove that. He's the author of a number of excellent books on writing, and anyone wishing to get started writing fiction would do well to read his book, Plot and Structure, and apply its principles. This is by no means the only book that will help the aspiring writer. My own bookshelf has almost three dozen of them, and every one of them has something to teach.

Writers must also read the work of other authors--the good and the bad. Read the good books and notice what the author did that gripped and held you. Read the bad books and notice what areas turned you off and made you anxious to hurry on. Read in your genre and in others. Learn to recognize, appreciate, and emulate good writing. Learn to avoid bad stuff.

And writers should...write! My cyber-friend, author and independent editor Ray Rhamey, says that his colleagues agree that it takes completing at least three books before writers begin to "get it." That assumes that they don't just write the same thing over and over again. A writer must find someone with knowledge of the field and be prepared to have them read and critique his/her work. Sometimes we disagree with those comments, and that's okay. But if you keep hearing the same thing, pretty soon you figure out that needs to be changed in your future writing.

There are many other ways a writer learns the craft. Notice I didn't say "the trade." That's a subject for another post. So if you're disappointed that you won't be attending a writer's conference in the near future, cheer up. That just gives you more time to work on your writing.

And for those who will be attending ACFW, find me and say "Hi." I love to meet my readers.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Don't Be A Typhoid Mary

I originally prepared this article for Christian Fiction Online magazine. My thanks to Bonnie Calhoun for permission to reprint it here.

Mary Mallon worked as a cook in the early 1900s. In 1906, although she had no symptoms of the disease, she was the unwitting carrier of the dread disease typhoid fever. Since that time, the appellation Typhoid Mary is given to persons who spread infections to those around them, often quite innocently.

The annual conference of the American Christian Fiction Writers in September will bring together a huge group of people from all over the United States and other parts of the world. And it’s a certainty that some of them will either be ill when they leave home or become ill while at the conference. None of us wants to be a Typhoid Mary. Can we do anything to keep from spreading our germs?

Most respiratory illnesses are spread by droplet contamination. Droplets of saliva from a cough or sneeze that are transferred to hands can live from two to eight hours—plenty long enough to be passed on to another person. Years ago most of us formed the habit of covering our mouths with our hands when we cough and sneeze. Now that’s changed. Ideally, we should sneeze into a tissue, which we should dispose of as soon as possible. If we can’t do that, we should cover our mouths and noses with our sleeves.

Having said that, it becomes pretty obvious that a major part of prevention is hand washing. Here’s the Centers for Disease Control suggestion:

• Wet your hands with clean running water (warm or cold) and apply soap. 

• Rub your hands together to make a lather, and scrub them well; be sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails. 

• Continue rubbing your hands for at least twenty seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice. 

• Rinse your hands well under running water. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry.

Can’t wash your hands? Use a commercial hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. These can kill most—but not all—commonly encountered germs.

Would taking the flu vaccine help? Definitely. Although flu season supposedly doesn’t start until winter, significant outbreaks occur every fall, and for years I’ve taken my flu vaccine in early September. Matter of fact, Kay and I had our shots this past week. What if you get sick anyway? Unfortunately, patients with flu are still infectious up to ten days after the onset of symptoms, although Tamiflu, one of the new anti-viral medications, can shorten this (and the course of the illness) slightly.

Just so you don't decide to cancel your attendance at the ACFW conference and hibernate in a plastic bubble, realize that these common sense precautions can go a long way in keeping you well. Can they get you an appointment with an agent or editor? Sorry, I can’t provide a prescription for that. You’re on your own there.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Pleased To Announce...

Readers have been asking me if there would be more of my novels after the release in October of Lethal Remedy. I can now answer that question: YES.

I have reached agreement with Thomas Nelson Publishers for a three-book contract for books offering my unique brand of "medical suspense with heart." The exact date of publication of the next novel hasn't been determined, but I'll let you know when we have that information.

I appreciate the opportunity I've had to partner with Abingdon Press in the publication of my first four novels, and look forward to a great relationship with Thomas Nelson, one of the premier names in Christian publishing.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Author Panels

On September 15, at 6:00 PM, I'll be joining authors Lena Nelson Dooley and Ronie Kendig at the Public Library in Wylie, Texas, just northeast of Dallas, on Lake Ray Hubbard.

I've done solo talks and signings at public libraries before, but this is my first participation in a panel like this. What's heartening is that this panel is composed of authors of inspirational fiction. We'll discuss how we write, how we got published, and read excerpts from our work. In addition to the two ladies and me, representing adult fiction, there will be authors who write teen and young adult inspirational fiction.

I'm interested that a public library is sponsoring an activity devoted to inspirational fiction. Of course, as with most events such as this, it's hard to predict how things will develop. Tune in for my report. And if you're in the area, please come by. I think you'll enjoy it.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11, 2001: In Remembrance

In commemoration of that terrible day:

-Fly your flag.

-Thank a First Responder.

-Pray for our nation.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Interview With Author and ACFW President Margaret Daley

My neighbor to the north (Oklahoma), Margaret Daley, is a busy lady. Not only is she an award-winning multi-published author, she currently serves as the President of the 2400+ member American Christian Fiction Writers. Since I’m  a Board member, I’ve gotten to know Margaret a bit better this year, and I’d like to give my readers that same opportunity.

RM: Margaret, welcome to Random Jottings. Would you tell us a little about yourself?

MD: I’m foremost a wife to a wonderful husband of forty years, mother to a son and grandmother to four granddaughters. I write inspirational romance and romantic suspense. And I am President of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW).

RM: Before retiring from teaching after twenty-seven years, you taught students with special needs. How has that shaped your thinking?

MD: I loved working with children with special needs. I have often written about people who have a disability. They say write what you know and I guess that’s true.

RM: What set you on the road to writing?

MD: I loved to read romances (still do) and decided to try and write one. That was all it took to put me on the road to writing.

RM: As I read through the list of the books you’ve had published, the dates prove that you’re a prolific writer, able to produce several books a year. How in the world do you manage that?

MD: Sometimes I’m not sure. I am organized and try to write most every day. I’ve been able to write more now that I’m retired from teaching.

RM: You’ve been President of ACFW for less than a year, but you’re already working to carry out a number of projects to improve the organization. Can you tell my readers a bit about ACFW and its importance to writers of Christian fiction?

MD: ACFW is an organization of Christian fiction writers (2400+). It is an online group who helps to promote Christian fiction and educate Christian fiction writers. We have an annual conference every September with wonderful classes and a chance to meet with publishers and agents in the industry. You can check it all out at our website.

    RM: Would you give us a sneak preview of your latest book, From This Day Forward?

    MD: Rachel Gordon is stranded in South Carolina, pregnant, a recent widow after her husband fell overboard on the voyage to America. Nathan Stuart, a physician who came home from serving in the American army during the War of 1812, disenchanted with his life and the Lord, rescues Rachel and saves her life. Feeling responsible for her, Nathan tries to discourage her from living at a rundown farm her husband bought to start a new future in America. He wants her to return to England.

Rachel refuses to go back to England where her father disowned her for marrying against his wishes. The farm is all she has, and she is determined to make it on her own. But Nathan has other ideas and becomes her farmhand to discourage her from staying in America. Instead he ends up protecting her and being challenged by her. Can two wounded people heal each other?
RM: Any last words of advice for my readers?

MD:  I hope if you get a chance to read my book that you enjoy it.

Thanks, Margaret. To learn more about her, visit her website, where you'll see that Margaret's tagline is "Heartwarming to electrifying read." 

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Visiting Author Jennifer AlLee

I'm posting today at the blog of fellow Abingdon author, Jennifer AlLee. I hope you'll click on over and visit. And check back tomorrow for an interview with novelist and ACFW President Margaret Daley.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Time Management and Other Myths

I've read a lot recently about how important time management is for writers (as well as most other folks). Of course, since I've retired from medicine, everyone assumes that I have the whole day before me every day, full of opportunities to kick back and relax. I, too, had that dream once. But no more!

Let me give you an example. When we moved to our current home, I gave away lots of my tools. "I'm not going to do that stuff anymore. I'll just call someone and write a check for it." Yeah, right. There are two things wrong with that philosophy: It's hard to find someone who's reputable and does good work, and those checks I talked about writing ended up lowering my bank balance. (Imagine that!)

I won't detail all the other things that pop up and demand the attention of the "at leisure" retiree. Suffice it to say that sometimes Kay and I look at each other and ask, "How did we ever get anything done and still work?"

Right now I'm working on a few new blog posts. I've spent a significant amount of time already on Facebook and Twitter (an activity I justify by calling it "marketing" and "establishing my platform.") Later I'll do a bit of business for the American Christian Fiction Writers. And then it will be time to get down to serious writing. Today and tomorrow and the next day, I'll try to carve out an hour or two to work on my novel. And that, my friend, constitutes the best this retiree can do about time management.

How about you?

Friday, September 02, 2011

Labor Day

The first Labor Day in the United States was observed on September 5, 1882, in Boston, by the Central Labor Union of New York. It became a federal holiday in 1894. The September date was originally chosen by the CLU of New York and has continued to be observed since. All U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and the territories have made Labor Day a statutory holiday.

Labor Day means different things to different people. Kids who are tired of school already rejoice at a three-day weekend (and their parents groan). Football fans start thinking about that sport, and baseball fans look forward to the World Series with a variety of emotions, depending on how their particular team is doing. Community swimming pools prepare to close. Stores start putting out their Christmas goods (if they haven't done so already).

This weekend I hope you'll pause and give thanks for the people whose work makes our lives more tolerable. Remember to voice a prayer that those currently out of work will find employment soon. While you're at it, express your gratitude for your freedom, and pray for this country and its leaders. I hope you have a wonderful holiday.

Important Note: I've been interviewed by, and if you read it you'll learn--among other things--which character in my new book I most closely identify with and why. Here's the link. They also just posted my segment on "When Life Hands You Lemons...Write About It." You can read it here. And finally, there's a very nice review of Diagnosis Death (currently discounted at Cokesbury) in this month's Afictionado magazine from ACFW.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

End of Summer

The painting shown at the left is by Claude Monet, and carries the title, "Wheatstacks, End of Summer 1890." I decided to use it today because we're either reaching or have reached the end of this summer, depending on whether summer ends for you when school starts or the Labor Day holiday rolls around.

Summer is a busy time for everyone. It's a time when things seem to move at double-time for lots of us. We look back and think about all the things we were planning to accomplish during the summer, and wonder "Where did the time go?"

For writers in the genre of Christian fiction, the end of summer signals the approach of the annual conference of the American Christian Fiction Writers. This conference provides great opportunities for meeting with editors and agents, so it's time to get that manuscript finished, that proposal sharpened, that one-sheet prepared. And that's where I find myself right now.

What does the end of summer signal for you?

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Writer's Eye

At the first writing conference I attended, author Alton Gansky told our class, "Once you begin writing, you'll never read the same way again." I have to admit that I couldn't see the truth shining through in this statement at the time...but I do, now. Heaven help me, the longer I write, the more finely developed my "writer's eye" becomes. And sometimes spotting these errors interferes with my enjoyment of the book.  This isn't to say I don't make mistakes myself--I do. But some of the errors I see in the writing of other authors, especially those with huge name recognition, are hard to swallow.

What are some of the things my writer's eye catches? Let me start with POV (point of view). Imagine that you can put a camera and microphone in the head of the POV character. The reader sees what they see, hears what they hear. If suddenly the writer jumps from the POV of one character to another, it's called "head-hopping." And it can slow things down while the reader processes the change.

I also look for the research the author has done. Most errors here are of two types. The first is simply a failure to adequately check out facts before writing about them. I encountered this not too long ago when an author--a well-respected one whose work I admire--had his lead character in the hospital after an injury, receiving IV Vicodin for pain. Vicodin is a good pain-reliever, but it's not available for IV or IM use, only oral. Most people wouldn't notice that, but some will. And it would only take a few keystrokes on a search engine to get the right information.

The other end of the spectrum on research is what author Randy Ingermanson calls the "Look how much research I did" syndrome. Hitchcock believed movies should be life with the dull parts removed, and so far as I'm concerned, books should hold to that same philosophy. I read a book recently, one co-written by a well-known author and an expert in a certain field. There were parts of the book I was sure were written by the expert. Why? Because they sounded like a lecture to a college class. The writer was obviously proud of his knowledge, but it was one of the dull parts, one that was easy for me to skip.

There are more things that bother me--things like a publisher allowing someone else to write books that carry the name of a deceased author. I saw one just the other day, with the well-known name in large letters and the actual writer's name less prominently displayed. To me, that's just wrong. Then again, maybe that's just a writer's perspective--the same thing that turns me off when a public figure has a book published under his or her name when those of us in the writing community know that a writer-for-hire did the actual work with not even a credit in the acknowledgements. Again, my writer's eye at work.

Alton Gansky was right. Writers notice things they would probably let slide before they took up the calling. As my favorite TV detective, Adrian Monk, used to say: "It's a blessing...and a curse."

Writers, do you have a writer's eye? What does it stumble over?

NOTE: Just discovered that my Carol-finalist novel of medical suspense, Medical Error, is a free Kindle download today. Medical Error is also a free Nook download and ebook download right now.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Interview With A Special Guest

In response to a desire for a change, I've altered the template of this blog a bit. Let me know your reaction to it. It was cheaper and easier than buying a new car or dying my hair.

As I considered the subject of my next interview, I thought it might be fun to do something different. So, here is an interview with an author whom I know as well as I know myself. Matter of fact…
RM: Richard, welcome to Random Jottings.
RM: What do you mean, “welcome?” I’m here every Tuesday and Friday. Enough of that. How about some questions?
RM: Okay. First, tell our readers a bit about yourself.
RM: I’m a physician, retired after 26 years in solo private practice, 10 years as a Professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. That’s the school where I got my medical degree, and my office was in one of the two buildings that were on the campus when I went to med school there. Funny how things come full circle.
My first wife passed away in 1999, and my reflections and journaling after that event got me started on my road to writing. My book, The Tender Scar: LifeAfter The Death Of A Spouse, has been out for five years and still ministers to thousands each year. God has blessed me again with the love of a wonderful woman, and Kay is a great encourager in my writing journey. Together we have five children, one of whom is with the Lord, and five grandchildren.
Kay and I are members of Stonebriar Community Church, where our pastor is Chuck Swindoll. My hobbies are golf and reading mysteries. She paints (when she has time), reads a broad range of fiction and non-fiction, and spends a fair amount of time defending her title as world's greatest grandmother.
RM: You describe your writing as “Medical Suspense With Heart.” How did you decide to write in that vein?
RM: When I started, I had no idea how to write, much less what to write. One thing I knew, however, was that medicine would be a part of my stories. After a blessedly short stint writing other things, including cozy mysteries (which I quickly found are not for me), I settled on what has become my voice, and I've tried to reflect that in my tag line.
I want to emphasize that it took the work of four years spent learning the craft, the experience gained by writing four novels, and the patience to endure forty rejections before I got my first writing contract. But in the meantime, I had a number of short pieces published in The Upper Room devotional guide, in addition to In Touch and The Christian Communicator. Writers should write, and not just books. It all goes to deepen our experience.
 RM: Your fourth novel of medical suspense, Lethal Remedy, will be published this fall. What’s it about?
RM: It’s about a “miracle drug” that can apparently kill more than bacteria. Here’s an excerpt from the back cover copy:
Dr. Sara Miles’ patient is on the threshold of death from an overwhelming, highly resistant infection with a bacterium that doctors call “the killer.” Only an experimental antibiotic can save the girl’s life. When potentially lethal late effects from the drug start showing up, they send Sara on a hunt for critical data that’s been hidden.
What is the missing puzzle piece? Who is hiding it? And can Sara find the answer in time?
 RM: You serve as Vice-President of the American Christian Fiction Writers. What have you learned in your nine months in office?
RM: I've learned a great deal about all the work that goes on behind the scenes to keep this 2400+ member organization going. As elections for half the Operating Board come up this fall, I'm encouraging our membership to look carefully at the qualifications and duties of those officers, and prayerfully consider running. There's no better way to see how the organization functions.
And if there are writers reading this post who are not members, I hope they'll consider the benefits of membership.
RM: Where can readers find out more about you?
RM: Assuming they don’t already know more than they want to, they can check out my web page. They can also follow me on Twitter and Facebook.
RM: Thanks, Richard, for dropping by.
            RM: No problem. I was going to be here anyway.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Meet Debut Author Anne Mateer

 I met Anne Mateer when we were both in Gayle Roper's mentoring class at the Mount Hermon Christian Writer's Conference in 2005. We've been friends since then, although  connecting mainly via the Internet and at meetings. Now I'd like you to have the opportunity to meet Anne, whose debut novel, Wings Of A Dream, is slated for release on September 1.

I’m not sure, exactly, what event to peg as the beginning of my writing journey. Was it my first creative writing class during my senior year of high school? Or the encouragement from my sophomore English teacher after a short story writing assignment? Perhaps it goes back to middle school, when I sat on my bed bawling over a work of historical fiction and wishing one day I could write one. Or the two-week summer enrichment class on poetry before my 5th grade year. Maybe it began in kindergarten, when I learned to read and began to devour books.

The starting place really doesn’t matter. What matters is that I have been on this journey for a very long time. But the funny thing about long journeys: sometimes you forget the milestone memories along the way. The children of Israel did that on their forty year trudge through the wilderness. I didn’t want to follow in their footsteps. So several years ago I sat down, opened a new document on my computer, and titled it My Writing Journey. Beneath that I wrote: How God Managed to Orchestrate My Writing Career.

Talk about faith! At the moment of that document’s creation, I had no guarantees this writing thing would ever be more than a frustrating hobby! But that day I sat down and began to comb through my history, working from memory and from a submissions spreadsheet I’d started in 2003. It was as fascinating as placing pins on a map of a cross-country journey, full of interesting twists and turns and out of the way places. Places I knew I had no way of finding on my own. I had to be led there, by invisible fingers of Sovereignty.

I’ve learned so much along that serpentine highway. First from local writers groups, then a critique group. Through two stints at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ conference (during one of which I met my illustrious host!) and four ACFW conferences. Through publications and rejections of articles and short stories, to contest successes and editor and agent rejections of entire novels.

With the release of my debut novel on September 1, I now stand at what was originally my destination: publication. Yet now I see that this pinnacle doesn’t mark the end of the journey. Instead the road climbs a bit steeper, runs a little narrower. It’s more important than ever that I fill in My Writing Journey document and review it on occasion. Seven pages in chronological order so I can see the journey I’ve walked. A map of remembrance instead of a map of direction. But it’s okay that I don’t get to see where I’m headed. Throughout my travels of this long and winding road, I’ve come to more fully trust the One leading the way.

Anne Mateer loves delving into the history of ordinary people and imagining out their stories. Her debut novel, Wings of a Dream, releases Sept. 1. She and her husband live in the Dallas area and are the proud parents of three young adult children.